To Hire Auto Engineers, Paint a Future Far Different from Past

Susan Hall

Just as federal contractor B&W Pantex faces challenges in recruiting engineers to Amarillo, Texas, so do the Big Three Automakers. To a lot of folks, the prospect of moving to Detroit doesn't sound that enticing.

 

I've written that Ford plans to hire 750 product developers and engineers over the next two years as it adds more sophisticated navigation and entertainment options on vehicles. And according to this Workforce Management piece, General Motors and Chrysler also are looking for 1,000 engineers apiece. It says GM plans to add them over two years to develop its next generation of electric vehicles, while Chrysler is on track to meet that hiring goal by the end of the first quarter of 2011-which is just a couple of weeks away.

 

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Program for Automotive Labor and Education and a director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research, says it's quickly becoming a candidate's market and employers will have to shell out to hire top talent, especially for those with advanced powertrain, electrification or embedded software skills.

 

She says the jobs will have to be full time-not temporary or temp-to-hire positions-and with good benefits. In addition, according to the article:

Potential employees also will be looking for incentives like assurances of advancement on a technical path and not just a promotion into management, as well as company support for additional training and education to develop their skills.

In an interview, Vincent Milich, director of the IT Effectiveness Practice at Hay Group, told me that tech pros are particularly concerned about career development, gaining new skills and having a clear path to career advancement-and that doesn't necessarily include management at all.

 


The companies are aggressively recruiting on college campuses, though the article says that in 2008, 53 percent of Michigan natives at the University of Michigan left the state. The state's new governor is determined to keep more of the state's brightest at home, and the state is beginning to see some recovery from the fierce pounding it took during the recession.

 

The home-grown students have seen the near free-fall of the U.S. auto industry and its effect on family and friends. Says Garth Motschenbacher, academic specialist for electric and computer engineering at Michigan State University:

If you are going to come recruit them and advertise a job, you first have to convince them that what they grew up knowing and learned is not what the future holds for them.


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